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Should Children Attend Pet Euthanasias?

2 Minute Read
Young girl hugging dog on the ground during in home pet euthanasia
Dr. Karie Anne Johnson Mobile Vet for VIP Vet Visit
By Dr. Karie Johnson  |  Healthcare  |  Jan 2019

Should Children Attend Pet Euthanasias?

2 Minute Read
Young girl hugging dog on the ground during in home pet euthanasia
Dr. Karie Anne Johnson Mobile Vet for VIP Vet Visit
By Dr. Karie Johnson  |  Healthcare  |  Jan 2019
Dr. Karie Anne Johnson Mobile Vet for VIP Vet Visit

By Dr. Karie Johnson  |  Jan 2019

SHOULD CHILDREN BE PRESENT

YES: Your children should be allowed to make the choice for themselves if they want to be present at the euthanasia of their family pet.

HOW IS ALLOWING THEM TO DECIDE BETTER?

By allowing you child access to the euthanasia, they can decide for themselves if they want to witness the death of their pet or not. They will feel included in the decision and it allows them to prepare themselves and say goodbye. Talking to them about euthanasia also opens the door for them to understand why euthanasia is necessary in ways they can understand.

HOW TO DESCRIBE EUTHANASIA

Explain euthanasia in an age appropriate way. Let your child know that the pet is being helped to die peacefully and without pain. Try to avoid using “put to sleep” as a term. This can cause a fear of going to bed or surgery for children. Explain death to help them understand their own feelings and fears around death. Be very direct and use words such as, “died” or “is dead.” Avoid euphemisms especially with younger children who take your words literally.

During the euthanasia process, allow your child to react as they want. Let them know they can touch the body if they want after the euthanasia is finished. Everyone reacts differently to grief. Your child may react in a way different from yourself but be supportive and patient as they come to turns with the reality of your pet’s death.

HOW TO DESCRIBE AFTERCARE

Explain what happens to your pet after they have died. Let them know about cremation or burial. You can say something like “the pet’s body was turned into ashes” but avoid the words “fire” or “burning” when explaining cremation, as this may cause fear in a child. Make sure they know that your pet can no longer feel their body and that they are no longer in any pain.

GRIEVING AFTERWARDS

We recommend planning a memorial for your children. Encourage activities like drawing, writing, etc. to express love and grief. Share your own happy memories or favorite moments with your pet and allow them to do the same.

“Grief is just love with no place to go”

Please see my article, Grief in Children – The Honest Truth, for more information on this topic. If you are looking for book recommendations for children, you can also see my article, Pet Loss Resources.

Dr. Karie Anne Johnson Mobile Vet for VIP Vet Visit

Author: Dr. Karie Johnson, Co-Founder of VIP Vet Visit

Dr Karie is a companion animal & equine veterinarian in the Chicagoland area. Her desire to strengthen the human-animal bond while providing enhanced preventative care led her to start VIP Vet Visit – an at-home veterinary care option that provides less stress, more convenience and better care. 

SHOULD CHILDREN BE PRESENT

YES: Your children should be allowed to make the choice for themselves if they want to be present at the euthanasia of their family pet.

HOW IS ALLOWING THEM TO DECIDE BETTER?

By allowing you child access to the euthanasia, they can decide for themselves if they want to witness the death of their pet or not. They will feel included in the decision and it allows them to prepare themselves and say goodbye. Talking to them about euthanasia also opens the door for them to understand why euthanasia is necessary in ways they can understand.

HOW TO DESCRIBE EUTHANASIA

Explain euthanasia in an age appropriate way. Let your child know that the pet is being helped to die peacefully and without pain. Try to avoid using “put to sleep” as a term. This can cause a fear of going to bed or surgery for children. Explain death to help them understand their own feelings and fears around death. Be very direct and use words such as, “died” or “is dead.” Avoid euphemisms especially with younger children who take your words literally.

During the euthanasia process, allow your child to react as they want. Let them know they can touch the body if they want after the euthanasia is finished. Everyone reacts differently to grief. Your child may react in a way different from yourself but be supportive and patient as they come to turns with the reality of your pet’s death.

HOW TO DESCRIBE AFTERCARE

Explain what happens to your pet after they have died. Let them know about cremation or burial. You can say something like “the pet’s body was turned into ashes” but avoid the words “fire” or “burning” when explaining cremation, as this may cause fear in a child. Make sure they know that your pet can no longer feel their body and that they are no longer in any pain.

GRIEVING AFTERWARDS

We recommend planning a memorial for your children. Encourage activities like drawing, writing, etc. to express love and grief. Share your own happy memories or favorite moments with your pet and allow them to do the same.

“Grief is just love with no place to go”

Please see my article, Grief in Children – The Honest Truth, for more information on this topic. If you are looking for book recommendations for children, you can also see my article, Pet Loss Resources.

Dr. Karie Anne Johnson Mobile Vet for VIP Vet Visit

Author: Dr. Karie Johnson, Co-Founder of VIP Vet Visit

Dr Karie is a companion animal & equine veterinarian in the Chicagoland area. Her desire to strengthen the human-animal bond while providing enhanced preventative care led her to start VIP Vet Visit – an at-home veterinary care option that provides less stress, more convenience and better care. 

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